Sunday, June 3, 2012

May 2012 Wrap Up & June 2012 goals

Happy June! I am coming off an incredibly satisfying reading month in terms of total books read: I managed to finish fourteen(!) books in May, which leaves me one short of fifty books for the year. I'm hoping to finish Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl tonight. Here's how my reading panned out:

The excellent (rated 4.5 stars and higher):


Run by Ann Patchett (my review)
I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits (my review)
New Finnish Grammar by Diego Marani (my review)
I Wish I Had a Red Dress by Pearl Cleage (my review)
Long Gone by Alafair Burke (my review)

The good (rated 4 stars):

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (my review)
The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (my review)
Perla by Carolina De Robertis (my review)
Alice by Judith Hermann (my review)
The Flying Man by Roopa Farooki (my review)

The disappointing (rated less than 4 stars):

Tides of War by Stella Tillyard (my review)

The not yet reviewed:

On the Floor by Aifric Campbell (review coming soon)
Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg (review coming soon)

Night Watch by Linda Fairstein (review coming July 2)


Rethinking Prize lists
Although I managed to complete most of the goals I set for May 2012, I was surprised to see only one of my 4.5 or 5 star reads this month came from my prize goals. As I looked back on the rest of my 2012 reading, I became even more surprised: none of the six books I've rated 5 stars this year came from prize lists (While Bel Canto won the Orange Prize, I read it on my quest to read all the Ann Patchett novels this year.) I looked back to 2011. Of the fourteen books I rated 5 stars, only one (Sense of an Ending) came from a prize list, but Ann Patchett's State of Wonder did end up making the Orange Prize shortlist in 2012.

I've spent much of the last week pondering exactly what kind of reader I want to be. I came to a few conclusions: after a banner year of prize reading in 2010, where seven of my top 10 for the year came from prize lists (and one went on to win the Pulitzer in 2011), the success of these reads has diminished somewhat. Once I got thinking, it began to make perfect sense: the prize juries are different each year. As much as I love the big prizes, some years the selections will match up with my personal taste better than other years. 

While I don't plan to completely abandon prize lists, I'm going to trust my hunches more. I hope to spend June reading whatever strikes my fancy. I want to emphasize reading the authors I already love, the authors I've been meaning to read for years, the new releases that sound the best to me, and the recommendations of readers who share similar taste. So far in 2012, those types of books have been my personal favorites.

Now tell me: what one book would you recommend to me?

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14 comments:

  1. Have you read Sigrid Nunez's The Last of Her Kind? I adored it -- reminded me of a few of my co-workers I know -- it was such a moving/sad/anger-making/beautiful/lovely novel.

    Okay. That's my one book. I'm pretty sure I won't change my mind in two minutes....

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    1. Audra, I've been meaning to read that one for years. She came to speak at Albany a couple of years ago, and I promptly checked out all of her novels and read none of them. This one sounded the most intriguing to me. Thanks!

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    2. Yay! Can't wait to see what you think of it -- that book has stuck with me for so long!

      I'm also a huge Penelope Lively fan -- Moon Tiger is her most well-known, I think -- it might have won an award -- but I don't know if it's my favorite. It's up there, though. Making It Up is vignettes in which she takes real events from her life, and imagines if they went differently: if she didn't escape North Africa as a child, if she didn't marry X guy, if she did marry Y guy...interesting speculative fiction about the way a woman's life can go.

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    3. Ooh--I love that idea of different vignettes. I think of my own life in the same way sometimes: how many crazy things changed my life by happening and how many changed my life by not happening? I read The Photograph and didn't love it, but I do remember liking her writing. I'll have to look for both of those!

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  2. Of the books I've read this year, I would recommend PILGRIM AT TINKER CREEK by Annie Dillard.

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    1. Thanks, Heather! Dillard is an author I've never read but feel like I should. I'll start with this one!

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  3. I definitely agree with you on the prize lists, for every year I think 'wow, I *get* this list' there is a year I am left confused at the thinking behind it.

    I'm not sure I know you well enough to recommend just one book but I really loved Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov. It's a funny little book based around Timofey Pnin, a hapless Russian professor working in an American university and trying to fit in. He's a lovely, memorable character and the book has a great sense of moving from scene to scene, almost filmic at times.

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    1. Alex--it makes sense once I realized the taste of the judges varies year to year. I'm curious how far my resolve will last once the Booker longlist is announced, however. Thanks for the Nabokov suggestion. I haven't read him before, but I do want to. I like the idea of starting with one of his lesser known books!

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  4. Fourteen is VERY impressive! Wow!

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    1. Gayle--I think a week off of work played a part! I was shocked when I looked at the total!

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  5. Hey, where's Howard go? (Not that I'm accusing you of ABANDONING him. Just following my (and Jenners!) bad example. :-D

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    1. I haven't abandoned him, but now that I'm reading alone, I haven't felt the need to stay on my chapter a week pace. I'll get back to him soon!

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  6. I agree about the prize lists. They can be so hit/miss. I've decided to try the books on the prize lists, but make no promises about finishing them. Sometimes I click with a jury and love everything they select, but lately I've been having the same problem as you. Fingers crossed the Booker judges are more in tune with us this year.

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    1. Jackie, I am curious to see how the Booker list looks this year! I had such fun in 2010 with the prize lists, but since then they haven't provided consistently good reads. It is so much fun to share reading and discussions with so many, and I do hope to get back to it when the prize lists are more to our liking!

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!